Katarina - Comprehensive Guide - by Redrach

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Katarina's a relatively new hero, and not quite as popular as her, uh, "gifted" companion Corki. 
Many people believe that she's UP, but she's very much a powerhouse in her own regard and hopefully this guide will help you master her.

Role
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Katarina's role in a game is simple - she's a ganker/finisher. She CAN carry for her team if she has a brilliant early game with a lot of kills and assists, but don't expect it every game. 
More importantly, she CANNOT initiate for the team. You should never be the first person to engage the enemy team in a pitched 5v5 battle ala Malphite, your job instead is to sneak in unawares and quickly take out priority targets. 

As the game progresses, you'll steadily gain more team presence as your ultimate increases dramatically in power, until eventually you'll be hitting as many as 3 enemies at once for tons of damage multiple times per battle.

Due to her fragile HP, Katarina should never be expected to tank for the team. Even so, you should expect to be targeted first in every battle due to how much of a nuisance you are. We will have to choose our items carefully so that we can survive the initial assault, as well as use Shunpo and Flash to back off if the heat gets too much.

Playstyle

Katarina is very much a hit-and-run kind of character, so don't play her as someone who charges into battle defiantly and never looks back. The best way to practice this is during the laning section - outlined below.

A unique thing about Katarina is that none of her spells cost any mana. This means that the only thing limiting when you can use her spells is their cooldowns, which are reduced by her passive. This is balanced by the fact that her skills are weaker than similar skills which require mana. In other words, in order to get the maximum use out of her spells, you MUST use her skills effectively every time they are not in cooldown. This is the hardest part of playing as Katarina, and will make or break a good player.

Skills


Q - Bouncing Blade - Katarina throws a dagger that bounces from enemy to enemy dealing her weapon damage + bonus magic damage. Subsequent hits do 15% reduced damage. The number of enemies hit and the magic damage scales with skill level.


This is the first of your damage spells. It has multiple uses - harassing an enemy in lane, last-hitting a creep, farming (with a DPS build) and most importantly - finishing off an enemy.
This skill scales with weapon damage, and is unaffected by AP. 
This has the second shortest cooldown of her spells.


W - Killer Instincts -

Passive: Katarina's attack speed is increased each time she consecutively hits the same target. Active: Katarina's next basic spell has a bonus effect. Bouncing Blade does full damage to every target hit and reduces incoming healing to the target, or after using Shunpo Katarina's dodge chance is increased for 3 seconds.


A strange skill. The passive ability is useful for DPS Katarina builds, but be warned - the bonus attack speed only lasts for 5 seconds. The best use for this is when taking down towers.
The W + Q active combo is generally less useful than the other, and is only good if you have good weapon damage. The healing reduction is very situational, though it will be good vs. a heal-heavy line-up.
The W + E active combo can be quite useful in a team battle, as it gives you significant dodge (70% at level 5) for 3 seconds. This could give you the precious few seconds it takes for her ultimate to kill someone, allowing you to safely Shunpo away with another W + E combo.
This has the second longest cooldown of her spells, so be sure you use it at the right time.


E - Shunpo - Katarina instantly moves to her target location. If the target is an enemy, she deals damage.

Katarina's signature skill. You will be using this one more than any other. From last-hitting in lane, to harassing enemies and positioning yourself to cast your ultimate in the middle of a team battle - this skill does it all. And of course, it's a beast of a chasing ability - especially when paired with a 40% slow from Rylai's Scepter.
Most importantly - this spell scales with a 1:1 AP ratio, and has the lowest cooldown of all her spells (3seconds at level 5 with 40% cooldown reduction!). Imagine a nuke that does 300+ damage every 3 seconds and positions you right next to an enemy so you can hit him... 


R - Death Lotus - Katarina goes into a state of extreme focus, throwing daggers with unrivaled speed at one enemy champion per level of the spell. Channeling.
 

Katarina's most controversial spell. This spell has a very low range, is channeling (which means it can be stopped by a stun or an ability that forcibly moves your character) and seemingly does low damage.
So does it actually suck?

Hell, no!

At 40 seconds, the cooldown on this ultimate is incredibly low for the kind of spell it is. This is further augmented by her passive, which allow you to instantly cast the ultimate again if two enemies you've hit in the last 15 seconds die before the ultimate runs out. 
This is exactly why Katarina is so powerful in team battles.
It's even powerful in the laning stage, and I'll describe why shortly.
The ultimate scales at a 0.15 AP ratio which might seem low at first, but is actually more than enough for our purposes.


(Passive) - Voracity - Every time a champion Katarina has damaged in the last 15 seconds dies, she gains 50 gold and her cooldowns are reduced by 20 seconds.

Arguably the best passive in the game, hands down. Katarina's entire playstyle revolves around this passive - the 50 gold per assist means that she earns a ton of money from successful ganks, and the cooldown reduction means that she can spam her skills like crazy leading to very stylish kills.

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For example, consider a champion at low life hiding behind his tower, confident that if you were to Shunpo to him, he would gain gold from the tower killing you despite him dying. And then you use your W + E combo to kill him, dodging most of the tower hits, killing him in one hit, and then reactivating W + E again to safely blink away.
Katarina lives her life on the edge and loves every moment of it!

Summoner Spells

As a ganker, you are naturally inclined towards Exhaust, Flash, and Teleport.

Exhaust will help you net kills early, but its function can be easily obtained from a Rylai's Scepter, which gives you a much more spammable slow once you are able to buy it.

Flash can be used both for chasing and escaping, and its extremely valuable when Shunpo is in CD (rare) or when there are no minions around to Shunpo to. Since Katarina is a squishy hero I always get this spell as a backup escape ability.

Teleport minimizes the amount of time you spend walking back from the base, which means you get all that much more time to gank. It also enables you to quickly disappear from one lane and pop up in another, which can net you a few kills early game.

Runes

You mostly want to focus on runes that reduce cooldown - Runes of Focus and Runes of Celerity. The rest of the slots should be filled according to whether you're going the DPS build (+crit damage, armor penetration runes) or an AP build (+AP, magic pen. runes).

Masteries

Nothing fancy here, the typical 9 - 0 - 21 build.
In particular, you want access to Sorcery, Archaic Knowledge, Intelligence, and Presence of the Master.

Items

I'm not going to suggest hard-and-fast builds here, as they will vary from game to game. Instead, let's look at what items are best suited for Katarina.

But first...

DPS or AP?


This is an issue of some contention. It is my firm belief that Katarina is much more effective with an AP build. It fits her playstyle much better - quick, accurate deep strikes with Shunpo rather than prolonged 1v1 battles and also boosts her ultimate.
With a DPS build you'll have a much stronger Bouncing Blade, but that has a significant cooldown compared to your normal hits, so you'll end up doing most of your damage via normal hits anyway.
The DPS build is boosted by the passive aspect of Killer Instincts, but that has a duration of only 5 seconds, which means that it will only be effective in a 1v1 battle where the enemy chooses to fight you instead of run.
Note that Katarina simply doesn't have the skills or stats to survive in a 1v1 battle, unless you stock up heavily on dodge and leech. In such situations, the ultimate is more of a hindrance than a help, as time spent using the ultimate is time spent not leeching, and the ultimate will do less damage than your normal hits without AP.

So to summarize: If you go the DPS route, focus on damage, dodge and lifesteal items. Do not use your ultimate once you've managed to get your first or second damage item (or about two BF Swords-worth of damage).

Suggested DPS Items

Regrowth Pendant
Ninja Tabi
BF Sword
BF Sword -> Infinity Edge
Bloodthirster
Zeal
Zeal -> Phantom Dancer/Trinity Force

Now for my preferred build (where you can actually use the ultimate at full capacity instead of ignoring it outright):

Suggested AP Items

Regrowth Pendant
Kage's Lucky Pick
Ninja Tabi/Sorcerer's Shoes
Rylai's Scepter
Mejai's Soulstealer (Credit to Shillen)
Spirit Visage
Sheen -> Lich Bane
Regrowth Pendant -> Warmog's Living Armor
Sunfire Cape/Force of Nature/Banshee's Veil

The Kage's Lucky Pick gives a slight boost to your AP, as well as gives you a steady source of income so you can focus on ganking instead of farming.
If you're doing extraordinary well early game, you can even buy 3 Kage's Lucky Picks within ~12 minutes and then steamroll the opposition with a quick Rylai's Scepter followed by a Zhonya's Ring. Of course, this won't work against a good team.

Choose your shoes depending on how many DPS heroes the enemies have. I usually try to get Sorcerer's.

Rylai's Scepter is THE core item for AP Katarina. It adds some much-needed health, as well as allows her to slow with every single one of her abilities. The faster you can get this item, the more assured kills you will get.

With a Spirit Visage you can reduce Shunpo's CD to 3.5 seconds. Its usually a good item to get against a lot of casters, but not really required.

Lich Bane is another important item for AP Katarina. It allows you to dish out a lot of pain after every Shunpo.

If the game is prolonged, you will need to get a Warmog's Living Armor. By now your role in team battles is well-known to the enemy, and they WILL focus you. You need the armor to survive the assault and pull off your Death Lotuses.

For extremely late games, get a Sunfire Cape or a Force of Nature depending on whether enemy DPSers or casters are more of a problem. I would have suggested Zhonya's Ring here, but that's more of an item you get when you know you're definitely going to win and want to show off by obliterating the entire enemy team yourself. 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Shillen View Post
A couple suggested items that you didn't mention are mejai's soulstealer and banshee's veil. It is really easy to get killing blows with shunpo so soulstealer is by far the best AP item you can get for your gold. I usually just get sheen then soulstealer then finish lich bane (all this after rylai's of course). Banshee's veil is incredibly helpful against any team that has multiple disables. Getting disabled is pretty much the only way you can die and they can completely negate your ultimate. Banshee's veil also buffs hit points so you could even get it in place of warmog's.
I've only had one game where I needed an item after a Sunfire Cape, and I chose to get an Atma's Impaler to turn my 4k+ HP into damage. Choose at your own digression.


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